10.18.2014

"The Maxwell Leadership Bible - NIV (book review), edited by John C. Maxwell

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a lot of Bibles in America.  I'm beginning to think publishing companies publish gimmick Bibles in September like gyms offer membership discounts in January.  For both, their design is to get people in, but they fail to keep people there.  Leadership guru, John Maxwell, can now add the book of all books to his portfolio: the Holy Bible.

The Bible itself is the New International Version with several leadership principles and articles intertwined throughout its pages. Now, I'm not opposed to gimmicks, new gym memberships, or Bible reading, but I'm skeptically concerned with why this version had to be published.  After all, John Maxwell already has a million books on leadership.  As trustworthy as he is, do John Maxwell's words somehow lend more credibility to the words of God?

FEATURES:

1) Each biblical book contains an introductory page or two, which contains smaller sub-units regarding God's role in the book, listings of "Leaders" and "People of Influence", and various "Lessons in Leadership".  The introduction of each book concludes with an index of "Leadership Highlights", which directs readers to various pages within the biblical book that Maxwell highlights as containing leadership principles or qualities.

2) Leaders whose names were listed in the introductory section of each biblical book are described within the book why they were good or bad at displaying leadership qualities.

3) Drawing on his book, "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership", Maxwell plants brief snippets of each of these 21 laws throughout the Bible.  The laws in view in the particular books describe how the characters displayed leadership or lack thereof.

4) Numerous leadership principles are highlighted throughout each biblical book, highlighting...well...leadership qualities, rather than godliness.

5) There are more, but they're not really all that noteworthy.  You'll see why if you just keep reading.

DRAWBACKS:

Why am I being so hard on The Maxwell Leadership Bible?  Because it is man-centered rather than Christ-centered.  For example, in 1Kings 10 (p. 421), Maxwell highlights a section entitled, "Play to Your Strength: the 70-25-5 Principle".  Introducing the highlight, Maxwell writes, "Great leaders play to their strength."  He continues to explain the wisdom and riches of Solomon, but gives only a mere tip-of-the-hat to Solomon's Creator.  The short reading ends with a question and answer: "How did Solomon gain such fame?  He focused on what he did best.  Leaders would be wise to follow a similar pattern, called the 70-25-5 principle."  Rather than pointing readers to Yahweh-God, he directs them to his own 70-25-5 principle! 

Another leadership lesson, this one found in Romans 15 (p. 1,356), simply refers to Christ as a "model", rather than the Savior of sinners.  In his "Servanthood: Leaders Lose the Right to be Selfish", Maxwell's 4th point describing a servant is simply this: "Imitates Christ -- we are to look to Jesus as our model."  Ohhhh, Jesus: the good teacher, good role model, good example.  But no Savior!

Here's one more.  Embedded in Titus 2 (p. 1,465), Maxwell provides a lesson in "Leadership Development: From Shepherding to Developing".  There, Maxwell provides three lists (Shepherding, Equipping, Developing) containing ten items each.  Descriptors included in those lists include such traits as, "Care", "Feel better", "Addition", "Skill-oriented", "Person focus", "Empowering", etc.  Nowhere does Maxwell point readers to godliness, holiness, or the Cross. 

CONCLUSION / RATING:

While I understand leadership principles can be drawn from God's word, I don't think those principles were the Holy Spirit's focus when inspiring its writing.  I didn't sense much of an inspiration by Mr. Maxwell to point readers to the Cross.  Instead, he points readers to the self.  In this Bible version, there's a whole lot of Maxwell, but little-to-no Jesus.  If Jesus Christ, Paul, Peter, etc pointed sinners to the Cross, I think it would be good for us to maintain our focus there, as well.  Mankind is broken because of sin, and no leadership quality will ever heal our sin sickness -- and THAT is the focus of God's word.

I give the Maxwell Leadership Bible just 1 star out of 5 (because I have to give it something, right?). 

DISCLAIMER: 

In exchange for my unbiased review, BookLook Bloggers provided me with this free copy.  I was not promised favors, threatened, or coerced to provide a positive review of it.  All opinions are mine. 

10.14.2014

THAT'S WHY WE PRAISE HIM:

Recently, Victoria Osteen, wife of mega-church pastor motivational speaker, Joel Osteen, said, "When we obey God, we're not doing it for God...we're doing it for ourself. Because God takes pleasure when we're happy. Do good 'cause God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you're not doing it for God, really. You're doing it for yourself because that's what makes God happy."



She's taking some heat for it in the Christian community -- and rightfully so, I think. While I believe she is THEOLOGICALLY incorrect in her statement, I think she is PRACTICALLY correct.

She's theologically incorrect because God is not dependent upon US in order for HIM to be happy.  God is fully pleased within Himself whether we are happy or not.  God said of Jesus at his baptism and transfiguration: "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased."

However, I want to give Victoria a smidgen of credit -- because I think she's more correct than many Christians are willing to admit.  How many people attend worship services on a regular to semi-regular basis than to (1)feel good about ourselves or (2)look good in others' eyes? 

How many attend in hopes to earn points with God on some mysterious "goodness scale"? 
How many attend out of mere habit and ritual?
How many attend because we think God will be more pleased with us, and therefore give us what we want in life?
How many attend because our public image might be sullied if we aren't "in church" on any given week?
How many attend out of a desire for "political expediency"?  "Will this give me more votes from the religious right in the coming election?"

With that, I think Mrs. Osteen is right on, for many of us ARE "doing it for ourselves".

I would suggest that if we simply "attend" worship services, then we may be in serious trouble.  If that is the case, we better do some serious introspection to determine if we are even in Christ Jesus.  The following questions, while not an exhaustive list, may help us:

Do we desire to worship our Creator and hear from Him via His written and spoken word?
Do we desire to be involved in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Do we worship and hear from God any other days of the week than Sunday?
Do we gather together in order to pray for and encourage one another in Christ?
Do we worship when times (health, finances, etc) are good AND bad?

Christian, it is my hope and prayer that we recognize our complete need for God, that we depend upon Him for everyday life and breath.  It is my prayer that we recognize our brothers and sisters in Christ depend upon us to be there.  We need each other to walk with, to encourage, and to give counsel in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The gospel isn't just for "getting people saved", but is for the daily lives of the blessed saints of God -- and THAT'S why we praise Him!

9.28.2014

COMPASSIONATE MERCY:

Where I live, there are thousands of people who are living in darkness -- not in a lack of light; but in spiritual darkness.  No doubt, it would be no less true if you inserted your city's name into that statement.  Sadly, many of those souls will leave this life before the end of 2014 and behold their first glimpse of eternity.  Many will leave before the end of the month; before the end of the week.  Maybe even before I'm done typing this.

Do those souls -- drunks, wife-beaters, murderers, thieves, etc -- deserve God's wrath in the eternity that awaits them?  Unquestionably.  Do I, however, deserve His mercy? Surely not, for I am the worst sinner I know.  For some reason, however, God, has chosen to show His great mercy and compassion to sinners galore.

The ancient prophet of Yahweh -- Jonah -- faced a situation in which his enemies (the very enemies of God) were subjects of God's mercy and compassion.  That account is over in Jonah 4.  Yahweh's mercy was so shocking that it would be similar to Him showing mercy upon Islamic State militants today.  Jonah was ecstatic shocked; but I have to admit, I think I'd be ecstatic shocked too.  Jonah was pleased angry at God for showing His great compassion on a people of His own choosing; but I have to admit, I think I'd be pleased angry too.  Had Jonah forgotten that he, too, was once a sinner not deserving of God's mercy?  Yet, God, in His great compassion, showed mercy even to him.  I sometimes forget that I, too, was (and still am, if not for Jesus Christ) undeserving of God's mercy.

I'm getting to my main point in just a moment, but first let me draw your attention to two verses that stand out to me in this Jonah account.

First, Jonah's confession that God is a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love; that He is eager to turn back from destroying people (verse 2).  Did you notice that?  Eager to turn back from His wrath!  Truly, this is bold!

Next, is God's announcement that Ninevah (insert your city's name here) had, at the time, more than 120,000 (insert any number you wish here) people living in spiritual darkness.  Then He asked Jonah, "Shouldn't I feel sorry for such a great city?"  It will forever boggle my mind why God would ever want to restrain His hand from instantly destroying His enemies.  Yet, He does.

As I consider that conversational exchange, I must ask myself, How does this inform and influence my involvement in the arts, or forensic science, or politics, or law, or fatherhood?  Do I use those arenas to extend God's compassion and mercy to my city, workplace, family? Are people relieved when I arrive, suspecting that I will provide strong hope, compassion, and gentleness?  Or do they dread my arrival, knowing that I will do nothing but gripe and complain and bring them down with me?

These are sobering questions I've asked myself, but I think I'm afraid to hear the answers.  If I truly believe this, it seems to me that I should live a life of compassion for the outsiders, the broken, the not-so-attractive, the unpopular.  Instead, I routinely choose judgement and condemnation.

May God help me.

9.09.2014

If There's a Design...

video

I recently visited the greater Washington DC area, and decided to make an exodus from my hotel room for a while.  I chose to hike the Union Dam Trail in the Patapsco State Park in Ellicott City, MD.

Watch the video to hear more about this stack of rocks.


This is the Union Dam tunnel, built in 1902.



 Sitting on a rock in the middle of the Patapsco River.

8.27.2014

"The Book of Revelation Made Clear", by Tim LaHaye & Timothy E. Parker (book review)


I was hoping for something meaty when I requested to review this his book.  However, very little impressed me about it.  Instead, I found it to be lacking any considerable substance.  But since mom always told me, "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all", then I guess I better say something positive about it, eh?  Here it goes: if you read this book cover-to-cover, you will have read the entire book of Revelation :-)

That's because each and every verse of Revelation is contained in this particular book, and each chapter correlates to a chapter in Revelation.  So, as a quick reference, if you're looking for light, simple commentary on Revelation 12, then simply turn to chapter 12 of this book.

Each chapter is broken in to two or three segments, leading off with a short 3-question quiz. Following the quiz is the biblical passage, and then a short (very short, in most cases) commentary.  I don't think it's possible to "make clear" the book of Revelation...or Daniel, or Ezekiel, or Isaiah.  Volumes have been written on those challenging books, and a mere 187 pages is sure not to do it for Revelation!  One thing is clear, though: If you're familiar with Tim LaHaye's eschatology, this book is a simplified version of his "left behind" rapture theory.

Since I'm providing a book review, I have to ignore mom's advice for just a moment and be completely honest about it.  If you're looking for commentary to really sink your teeth into, then this book is sure to disappoint.

RATING: I give "The Book of Revelation Made Clear" just a single star out of five, and that's only because it contains all of the book of Revelation.  Otherwise, LaHaye has not really added anything to the conversation worth mention.  I personally wouldn't waste my money on it...for myself or for a gift.  Definitely not worth $17, in my opinion.

DISCLAIMER:  I received this book free of charge from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine, and I was not encouraged to provide a positive review.

8.05.2014

In Defense of Life:

Veiled behind a plea for equality in "reproductive health" is a chart showing the disparity in regulation of womens' bodies compared to mens'.  The title of Julianne Ross's recent article, "One Troubling Chart Shows How Many Times Politicians Regulated Men and Women's Bodies in 2014", is misleading enough, let alone the fact that her -- and her position's -- arguments hold little water.

As Ross would admit later in the body of her article, legislators have only attempted such regulation (which I'll address in a moment) 468 times.  Legislation that has actually passed, however, is a whopping 21 "restrictions" (as she calls them) across 13 states.  Even if someone wanted to suggest 21:0 women:men reproductive health legislation ratio is astronomically askew, they would do well to admit why legislation is proposed in the first place: women are capable of carrying life inside them; men are not.  Period.

Let's make one thing clear: this debate is not one surrounding reproductive health -- for that is only the cleverly-worded disguise.  Instead, this debate is a matter of "reproductive health" -- also known as "abortion rights".  Ross would agree, for she wrote, "It is about the unrelenting obsession with regulating a woman’s womb."  Therein lies the real issue of "reproductive health": the life inside the womb.

The pro-life position is not so much interested in legislating what women can and cannot do in the privacy of their own homes with the sexual partners of their choice and in the manner of their choosing.  Those are different arguments altogether.  Instead, the pro-life position is ultimately concerned with the life of the unborn child -- a person who has no ability to protect herself.  Her defenders are those who care enough to stand up against the atrocities committed against her and her unborn brothers and sisters.  Her defenders will face the ire of those who wish to silence her forever, who say he is merely attempting to "restrict" a woman's "reproductive health".

To show the shallowness of their position, Ross quotes pro-choice advocate and Senator, Nina Turner (D-Ohio), as saying, "If [representatives] want to make intimately personal decisions about women’s lives and their anatomy, I strongly urge them to go to medical school. But until then, stay out of a woman’s womb!”  But let's clarify what her words mean: Only doctors are capable of deciding the fate of the unborn.  Only doctors can save or take life.

Applying the Senator's logic to other examples, one might conclude that only those who are capable of defending the lives of their fellow American citizens are soldiers and police officers.  Yet, many non-uniformed heroes walk our streets every day.  If it is doctors who must be relied upon to protect the lives of those in the womb, why are many of those doctors killing instead?  Therefore, it seems apparent that we absolutely must rely upon non-medical voices to defend the unborn.

I don't want to spend the remainder of my space commenting on the foolish positions and bills six female legislators presented to Congress, which Ross briefly discussed.  You can read for yourself how their attempts don't meet the same threshold as that of defending human life.  Instead, I'd rather address the real issue at hand, and conclude with a word or two of encouragement.

The real issue at hand is not one of flesh-and-blood.  It is one more diabolical than that.  Here it is: Satan hates Jesus Christ, and will do whatever he can to attack anything that gets him closest to the heart of God.  Therefore, he assaults the unborn with weapons of twisted logic, using catch-phrases like "reproductive health" to cover up abortion; he invades marriage, the very picture of Christ's relationship with his redeemed people -- the Church; he besieges sexuality, convincing us that the consequences of sex outside of God's design are not really that harmful.  I could continue, but my intent is that we recognize the war for life is being waged on a supernatural scale, but fought on a human battlefield.


It is not my intent to condemn anyone who has faced or is facing a crisis pregnancy.  I'm willing to bet we all know someone who is or has been there, whether we know it or not.  The sheer numbers speak loudly.  However, there is hope in Jesus Christ. You are fighting the guilt that has overcome you because of your sinful choices; you've carried out plans that were harmful to you or others; you cry yourself to sleep at night because of your shame.  I think we've all been there a time or two.  But Jesus Christ said, "I have not come to condemn the world, but to save the world, to give life!"  That's a far cry from the Devil's purpose: steal, kill, and destroy, and I'd say he's been doing all three quite well for a long time.

You don't have to live the rest of your days in guilt and shame.  You can have renewed life, and you can have it now.  And that is the reason we aim to defend all of life.

7.27.2014

The Delight of God:

As any good researcher would do prior to writing a theological blog posting, I posed a question to my Facebook friends: "What do you think God think about you?  Does he have any thoughts or feelings regarding you?"

The answers varied from, "Forgiven" and "His child", to "God is needed elsewhere. I'm just fine", and "I doubt God cares."  The responses came publicly and privately from the range of those who consider them followers of Jesus Christ to those who consider themselves Atheists/Skeptics.  This particular posting is not intended to convince the Atheist/skeptic.  While I hope it does just that, it is intended to serve more as encouragement for my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

It breaks my heat that a number of Jesus followers have a view of God as a spiritual curmudgeon who perpetually shakes his head at our sins and failures.  To be sure, God desires His redeemed children to behave like redeemed children.  There is no doubt about that.  However, it seems apparent that many think they don't measure up and that we will always struggle to please God.

So here it is, brothers and sisters.  God's very word proclaims it: God is delighted in you!  There, I said it.  You don't have to continue agreeing with the devil and condemning yourself any more.  The Old Testament prophet, Zepheniah, (3:17) proclaims, "He (God) delights over you with singing."  That same passage refers to God's "gladness" and his "rejoicing" over those of us who are His people (aka, "in Christ").  Gladness is the "feeling of pleasure, joy, or delight; causing happiness"; and Rejoicing is the "showing of great pleasure, joy, or delight."  The former is a noun, while the latter is a verb.  Delight is what God feels about you, and rejoicing in song is what he does for you!

Is that difficult to believe: That the Creator of the vastness of space and the smallness of grains of sand thinks this way about you and me?  My mind is boggled by it, yet it gives me great encouragement.  The Psalmist (37:23) wrote, "The Lord directs the steps of the godly, and He delights in every detail of their lives."  You may be tempted to think, "Yeah, but I'm not godly, so how could He ever delight in me?  If you could see into my private affairs, you'd know God doesn't think of me as godly.

Well, the Psalmist answered that notion in the next verse: "Though they stumble, they will never fall.  The Lord holds them by the hand."  The word of God affirms that the godly stumble.  YET, God still holds them by hand...and He STILL delights in them...in US!  Notice what it DOESN'T say: that God delights in us only when we do right; only when we've read our Bible faithfully for 14 hours a day, or only when we've prayed for the other 10.  No, He loved and saved us EVEN WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, so what do you think you could ever do to change his mind or opinion about you?

We may be tempted to think the Gospel merely gets us INTO God's good favor, and that afterwards He lowers the proverbial boom, waiting for a reason to reject us once again.  But that's not how it is!  He loves us because of one simple, yet profound, word: GRACE.  By God's grace, He has poured out His love, mercy, and favor upon us.  He draws us to Christ, and he sets those of us who trust in Christ as His delight.

You bring God great pleasure, joy, and gladness because when He looks at you He sees Jesus Christ...and Jesus is the beloved Son who brings the Father great joy (Matt 3:17, 17:5).  This is great news for the saint and the sinner alike!  For the saint, because you do not need to walk each day of your life in perpetual condemnation; for the sinner, because you, too, can be the object of the Creator's delight.  There is nothing you've done that's so bad that God will never accept you; and if you're a follower of Jesus, there's nothing you've done that's so bad that God will reject you.

So, go.  Live every day in the delight of God, and know every day that you are the object of God's great delight.  When things get bad, imagine the Father in Heaven singing over you!!!